Stanley J. Tambiah

Stanely J. Tambiah, Esther and Sidney Rabb Research Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University, Emeritus. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University (1954). Having served as a UNESCO technical assistance expert in Thailand from 1960 to 1963, he joined the faculty at the University of Cambridge, where he taught for ten years, and was a Fellow of King's College. He went to the University of Chicago in 1973 as a tenured professor, and joined Harvard University in 1976.


Tambiah began his field work in Sri Lanka (1956-59), the island of his birth, and since 1960 has concentrated on Thailand, about which country he has written three monographs. Since 1983, he has revived his interest in Sri Lanka, whose disastrous ethnic conflict has engaged him. He is the author of the following books:

"Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in Northeast Thailand" (1970)

"World Conqueror and World Renouncer: a Study of Religion and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background" (1976)

"The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets: a Study in Charisma, Hagiography, Sectarianism and Millenial Buddhism" (1984)

"Culture, Thought and Social Action" (1985)

"Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy" (1986)

"Magic, Science, Religion and the Scope of Rationality" (1990)

He and Jack Goody are coauthors of "Bridewealth and Dowry" (1973)

"Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka" (spring of 1992)

"Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia" (1996)

His latest book is a biography entitled "Edmund Leach: An Anthropological Life" (2002)

perfessional associations, honors and prizes

- Served as the president of the Association for Asian Studies (1989-90)

- A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1984)

- Member of the National Academy of Science (1994)

- Member of the National Research Council's Committee for International Conflict Resolution (1995)

- Awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of Chicago in 1991

- Awarded the Huxley Memorial Medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute (1997)

- Received the Balzan Prize in 1997

- Received the Fukuoka International Academic Prize in 1998

- Elected a Corresponding Foreign Fellow of the British Academy in 2000

portrait Unveiling

Harvard Foundation Director S. Allen Counter (center) unveils a portrait of Stanley J. Tambiah, the Esther and Sidney Rabb Research Professor of Anthropology emeritus, as Tambiah (left) and student Alexandra Rahman ’12 look on. ...more